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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Belligerent North Korea and China Reaffirm Ties



As the US, South Korea, and Japan unify over recent North Korean belligerence and attacks, senior Chinese foreign policymaker Dai Bingguo met with Pyongyang. Hard to say what actually was said, but the both the Chinese and North Korean governments touted "consensus" regarding the situation.


"North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and a top Chinese envoy Thursday touted 'consensus' between the communist allies regarding the region's worst crisis in years, official media reported.

"China's most senior foreign policymaker Dai Bingguo visited Pyongyang as pressure intensifies on Beijing to rein in its unruly ally, after North Korea's deadly shelling of a South Korean island inflamed tensions on the peninsula.

"'The two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean peninsula after candid and in-depth talks,' said a brief report from China's Xinhua news agency, datelined Pyongyang.

"North Korea's official news agency said the delegations discussed 'issues of mutual concern' and efforts to improve friendly relations.

"It marked the first time that Kim has met a senior foreign official since the North's shock artillery attack on the South Korean island, and since his regime startled the world by showing off a sophisticated new nuclear programme.

"China is the isolated North's sole major ally and provides it with a crucial fuel and food lifeline.
But Beijing has come under increasing pressure from the United States and US allies to rein in North Korea following the incident, which was the first shelling of civilian areas in South Korea since the 1950-53 war.

"It has so far refused even to condemn the North for the November 23 artillery attack, which killed four people including two civilians.

"In Tokyo, the top US military officer Thursday accused China of aiding and abetting the hardline regime's 'reckless behaviour' as he touted a united defence front with South Korea and Japan against North Korea.

"'Northeast Asia is today more volatile than it has been in much of the last 50 years,' Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said.

"'Much of that volatility is owed to the reckless behaviour of the North Korean regime, enabled by their friends in China.'

"Mullen also said he felt a 'real sense of urgency' about building up three-way defence ties with Seoul and Tokyo. US forces have separately held major military drills with the two allies since North Korea's attack.

"The admiral has proposed three-way drills and said Thursday that any threat is 'much better addressed with all of us together, in terms of showing strength and getting to a point where we can deter North Korean behaviour'.

[...]

"The flare-up on the Korean peninsula has confronted Beijing with a wider diplomatic challenge, wrote Zhu Feng, deputy director of the Centre for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University.

"'Perceptions that China "protects" North Korea could lead to the emergence of a powerful Washington-Tokyo-Seoul axis directed not only against North Korea but also implicitly at China,' he said."

Oh to be a fly on the wall at that North Korea-China conference... China has so much to lose from North Korea and precious little to gain. China is absolutely reliant on continued good trade relations with the US, Japan, and Korea (all of whom have money), while North Korea costs them nothing but cash and resources. It'll be very interesting to see how relationships develop in the future. My bet is China will "strongly encourage" Kim Jong-un to modernize economically like China-- something that I think is fully beyond Kim Jong-un's capabilities. Following Kim Jong-il's stroke, it's hard to say who exactly is running North Korea, and I'm very skeptical that Kim Jong-un will be to rein in and unify North Korea's party factions.

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